The Silly Season

September, the plants are going to sleep, harvest is well under way and the bounty in my kitchen threatens to overwhelm me.  Jars of pickles and dilly beans everywhere.   The holy harvest is hanging in the utility room.   Soon it will be time to bring in the herb plants and put the gardens to bed for the winter.   I have been spending some time lately trying, unsuccessfully so far, to rescue a hive of honeybees from the wall of the seeds warehouse at Fedco.  This really is my favorite time of year.

Oh and it is election season.   Or as one of the characters on the BBC version of “House of Cards” likes to call it:  the silly season.   And all politics is local so here is my take on the Waldo County Maine races.    Readers from-away may want to stop reading at this point.

Driving my favorite candidate, Brian Jones, around Knox while he knocks on doors  it doesn’t seem so silly.   He is connecting with his constituents yet again.   And they seem to like him.   His opponent is weak, at best, so I think he stands a really good chance of being our Representative again; which is great news for those of us who spend our time testifying before the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.  We have several strong advocates on that committee but none who cut to the chase quite as well as Brian.

We have  several great candidates locally.    People who really care about the people they represent.   Jonathan Fulford,  Brian Jones,  Paige Brown.  Not people who just claim on 20 foot high billboards that they are “fighting for farmers.”   Well, Mike Thibodeau, I don’t know how you can claim to be fighting for farmers when you won’t even speak with them.   In fact you turn and walk away from them in the halls of the legislature.   It would be more honest to say you are “fighting for big agribusiness.”    You were one of only four senators to vote against the GMO labeling bill, an act that among other things would have aided the bottom-line of organic farmers.

Mike is a Tea Party Republican through and through.   But Jonathan is a hard-working, smart, dedicated person with great politics who is running an outstanding campaign.   Mike is running scared and I, for one, am grateful.  And besides I live and breathe this stuff.   Growing things is great fun but political action is the meaning of life for me.image

From the The Complete Patient: They Wonder Why People are Pissed?

More shenanigans in Michigan, notice the mention of Mark Baker (of Baker’s Green Acres)  seems they are going after his friends now.

by:David GumpertSat, 07/19/2014 – 20:11posted in:
Regulation,Food Club,Raw Milk,Resistance,

Jenny Samuelson was all set to do the deal dictated by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development: Dispose of nearly $5,000 worth of raw milk, cream, butter, eggs, and cheese. Under MDARD supervision, she was to bring the 250 gallons of milk to a neighboring farm, where the farmer would use it for fertilizer. The 10 gallons of cream and 20 pounds of butter would go in a dumpster. And the 100 dozen beautiful unwashed and unrefrigerated pastured eggs (raised without soy feed) would be smashed and turned into compost.

She would also discontinue all deliveries of cream and butter to herdshare members, despite their serious unhappiness about losing access to these foods.

But then the MDARD agents canceled out on the Saturday morning arrangements whereby they would observe the disposal of the food. They then said they would show up Monday morning. So she waits, and ponders her options.

Samuelson is pretty upset, as you might expect. She was trying to be an obedient citizen so she could have unfettered access to her refrigerated delivery truck and resume deliveries of raw milk. She had made the hard decision to go against what she feels is right and just, because she didn’t want to risk any further interruption in deliveries for the more than 600 families around Michigan that depend on her food.

She is still smarting from last Tuesday’s raid on her delivery truck in Washington Township, which saw agents from MDARD swarm aboard the delivery truck while it was stopped in a private parking lot, with her brother as driver. She thinks they had been following her and the truck for a number of day beforehand, and picked last Tuesday morning to do the raid instead of when she was driving, because they knew her brother likely wouldn’t know to demand a search warrant, and the presence of the local sheriff or police before being allowed (or possibly not being allowed) to take people’s food.

They told her brother it would take an hour to look through the Co-Op’s inventory—instead it took six-and-a-half hours.

Later, the MDARD told her she was prohibited from giving the food to a farmer as feed for his pigs, since she didn’t have a feed license.

Perhaps most significant, she doesn’t feel they had the right to prevent the food from being delivered in the first place. “They didn’t seize my products,” she says. “They seized the consumers’ products.”

Samuelson has been doing this drill for more than six years–during which time her co-op has grown from 20 members to more than 600– and knows the rules well. She says the cream and butter the MDARD was supposedly targeting were produced separately by the farmer from milk the members obtained as herdshare members, under contract to them individually. She also faults the special policy group that agreed with the MDARD last year in its policy statement that sanctioned herdshares for raw milk, but disallowed other raw dairy products. “I wasn’t allowed to have a voice in that,” despite her requests.

She wanted to feed the condemned food to Mark Baker’s pigs, or some other pigs, but state ag reps had told her she couldn’t feed the food to farm animals because she didn’t have a feed permit, and insisted the food be destroyed with MDARD agents watching.

Baker is the Michigan farmer who continued raising pigs the state considered wild, and he got the state to agree that he could continue raising the pigs after he sued the the Department of Natural Resources. He had a planned “Constitution Hall” program on slate for Sunday, at which Richard Mack, the former Arizona sheriff, will be discussing how the U.S. has veered from upholding its Constitution. Baker will be talking about his plans to run for Missaukee County sheriff. And there will be a pig roast for the many attendees expected.

Samuelson is going to have some very unhappy members based on her decision to refrain from delivering the raw cream and butter. “They are very pissed,” she says.

She is encouraging them to sue the state much like Mark Baker did. In the meantime, she is encouraging them to flood the MDARD with calls. Here are people she urges her members and sympathizers to contact:

Kevin Besey, director of the Food and Dairy Division, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (phone 517-582-1156 or e-mail

Tim Slawinski, Compliance Manager, Food and Dairy Division (phone 517-420-5364 or e-mail

In a letter to her members Saturday, she said: “The only way we can get cream and butter back is to WIN this war! You the people can do it!”

(This post was revised on Sunday, July 20, to update the situation.)

Home Again

I have such great respect for activists who do this all the time.   Leave home, sleep in strange beds, spend their days talking and talking and talking.   Networking, doing the work.  I want to do the work but I am so reluctant to leave my little homestead to do it.   I know how important it is to go and meet in person with other people trying to change the world but I just wish they would all come here.   Maybe I can figure out the Helen and Scott Nearing approach and get like-minded folks to make the pilgrimage to my little corner of the universe.   Maybe not.

But most importantly when I got home all of my baby chicks were thriving.   My non-farmer son who had been tending them for me said they had been eating like miniature vultures.   He had a hard time keeping their food troughs full.   How lucky am I to have this wonderful support system?   Very!

So home again, home again, riggety jig.   Back to the center of my universe and to a part of my life that is grounding and positive and, most importantly, here.    Oh, and my neighbor took care of the overly brazen fox who had eaten all my adult chickens and was starting in on his, in spite of his five dogs.


Final Day(s)

Went to “A Network Approach to Collective Impact: The Vermont Farm to Plate Story” yet another fantastic workshop.  I thought I knew this story, but I didn’t.   Go to their website, their Food System Atlas.  Very, very detailed and complex but as I have learned over the course of these two days (has it really been only two days, seems much, much longer) complexity is not our enemy.  As Marta Ceroni said this morning we have been over simplifying far too long.  We need to wrestle with the complexities of this mess in which we find ourselves.

So if you can go ahead and watch the live stream of the closing session.  If it is half as good as the rest of the weekend has been it will be worth your time.

Oh, and the title, it is a sad pun on the fact that we may be living in the final days.   As Ed Whitfield said at the beginning of this weekend:  the planet is going to survive us.   But we may not survive US!


I’m tired and really not as discouraged as this post might suggest.   Maybe I am just so tired I am being silly, you decide.

2nd Installment

Hi, there still here at CommonBound!   The second workshop I attended this morning was about storytelling.   Here is what I learned.  The five elements of a good story: conflict, characters (hero, villain, victim), imagery/show don’t tell, foreshadowing, underlying assumption.    Very, very good workshop.   A few good exercises.  “People will only go where they have first been in their minds (and I would add in their hearts).”   The presenter , Christine Cordero from the Center for Story Based Strategy, (gotta love that their website is called “beautifultrouble”) very dynamic young woman.   A workshop that was well worth my time and worth sitting in a very crowded room full of sweaty people.

So I was sitting here eating lunch and writing this blog and I hear a group of folks behind me talking about working with their state agriculture committee and the GMO labelling bill.   Turned around and put in my two cents worth.   In the first workshop I attended this morning a question was asked about “right sizing” regulation in the banking and food industry.   The panelist could answer the banking piece but I spoke up about the food sovereignty movement and our efforts in Maine to get legislation passed that regulates small farms differently from big agribusiness.   This weekend is all about serendipity and being where you are, when you are with whatever information you may have and sharing that with the folks around you.    It’s a great concept.

Oh, and we got a video greeting from Elizabeth Warren.   Very nice.


This is where I am this weekend.   Not planting seedlings.   Sitting at this great event in Boston listening to a wonderful duo of poetry slammers that call themselves Climbing PoeTree.   Lots and lots of people here.  Some that I already know.   Many I will know by the end of the weekend.  This morning I am going to a workshop titled “A Localist Agenda: Policy and Politics for Building a Community-Scaled Economy”  More later.

And for those long time fans of this blog you know that the last time I tried to live blog an event I was attending I had a computer disaster.  This time the only problem seems to be getting signed into the network (thanks to my marvelous children who bought me this slick new laptop!) but right now I have that licked.  Hurrah.   As I said more later.

Why I Changed Parties (briefly)

A couple of weeks ago I went to my town office and un-enrolled as a Green Independent here in Maine.   I did it so that I could enroll (briefly) in the Democratic Party and vote for Troy Jackson in the primary on June 10th.  This is so out of character for me that the ladies at the town office asked me twice if I was sure that I wanted to do this.   I am a state party chair emeritus of the Maine Green Independent Party and this just seemed to them to be a strange move on my part.   But I really want to vote for Troy.

I have stood by and watched the Democratic Party in this state shoot itself in the foot again and again over the years.   Remember their lack of support for Jean Hay Bright  (the party recruited someone to run against her in the primary for chrissake) when she ran against an ailing Olympia Snowe?   And Libby Mitchell’s “campaign” for Governor???? Enough said.   I want to vote for Troy because he is a candidate that represents what I want to see in an elected official: someone with a backbone.

I just got done watching the debate between Troy and his opponent on MPBN where his opponent claimed she was supportive of the GMO labeling bill.   And I call Bullshit.  She may have voted for it but if that is all it takes for her to claim supportiveness then the bar is pretty damn low.   And if any of you believe that Troy is the “big money” candidate in this race then you obviously don’t watch network TV.  Wall to wall ads for Troy’s opponent on the 6 o’clock local news.

Anyhow, watch this video of his speech at the Dem’s convention recently.  Ethan Strimling (an institutional Democrat if there ever was one) called it “the best speech I have ever heard at a Maine Democratic convention.” If you don’t tear up watching this then you are the one with a black heart!


Oh, I’ll be changing back to the party of my heart (the Greens) as soon as I can.   90 days I think it is.  But this will be worth it, especially if we get Troy to Congress!  So watch this 17 minute video, it will be time well spent.


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